An examination of the actions and strategies principals use in establishing, fostering, and sustaining Supportive Relational Conditions (SRC) for professional learning communities in elementary schools

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Spear, Emily K.
The purpose of this hermeneutic, phenomenological study was to investigate the strategies elementary principals use to develop trusting relationships that support a collaborative professional learning community (PLC) culture within their schools. Participants included six public elementary school principals purposefully selected from survey results for face to face interviews. The study was based on Hord and Tobia's (2012) six dimensions of PLCs and focused on the supportive relational conditions dimension as the bond holding the other dimensions together. Interview participants responded to questions regarding five attributes of supportive relational conditions including: Caring relationships; trust and respect; recognitions and celebrations; risk taking; and unified efforts to embed change. Training for PLCs was also a factor for discussion. The principals pointed to modeling behaviors, mutual trust, honesty, their presence and visibility, and extended time and patience for developing relationships as important factors in the sustainability of PLCs. Additionally, the principals' longevity at their schools emerged as a major influence in developing trusting relationships. Participants also concentrated on the use of student data as an integral component in staff members' efforts to embed change. The results offer information gleaned from the field about what has been identified as enabling PLC work with regards to supportive relationships. These results hold importance for school leaders, practicing and aspiring principals, and for institutions for school administrator certification to offer strategies and techniques for developing a positive school climate that allows for supportive relational conditions for professional learning communities.